Category Archives: Discussions

‘No One Should be Doomed to Just One Story’: An ‘S-Town’ Roundtable

Fabrizio Verrecchia / Unsplash

Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t listened to S-Town. You can listen to the podcast on its website or on iTunes

Pam Mandel: I finished S-Town about a week ago but I keep going back to replay the last two episodes because I feel like there’s something important in there I missed.

Sari Botton: I just finished it this morning and immediately called my husband to ask, “Did I miss something at the end?” I still have lots of questions. While I like that they didn’t artificially wrap it up, I kind of wish they would have acknowledged they weren’t going to.

Mark Armstrong: I should first admit I’m not a regular podcast listener, but I loved S-Town in a way that made me truly excited about the possibilities of audio documentary. There was an intimacy to it that I can’t imagine working as either a written magazine feature or filmed documentary. It was that intimacy that somehow still made the show deeply satisfying, even though NONE of my questions were answered at the end.

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On Being Fat

Illustration by Hana Jang (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Sara Benincasa’s essay “Why Am I So Fat?” was one of our top five reads last week, and with good reason — it was honest and cutting in all the right ways. It was brash and unapologetic and funny as hell (and also suggests that perhaps Fader was slightly premature in declaring, earlier this year, that “fat shaming is dead”).

It was also problematic, and many fat women applauded the piece while also wishing it had pushed harder and skirted some problematic tropes. Luckily, many other writers, scholars, and activists have also been publishing wonderful pieces on fatphobia: their experiences, the cultural and institutional ways it is entrenched, and more. They might not have gone viral, but their voices are important — and just as honest, cutting, brash, and funny.

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Could You Afford a $400 Emergency? Neal Gabler Says His Financial Confession ‘Was Not an Easy One to Write’

If there are two things Americans are good at, it’s mishandling our finances, and using Twitter to judge those who are in worse shape than us.

Thus we have the perfect Atlantic cover story this week—a refreshingly honest and desparingly relatable personal essay by writer Neal Gabler about his many financial mistakes, as well as a look at why even high-earning families in the U.S. are still living paycheck to paycheck. Gabler told me the piece “wasn’t an easy one to write.” Read more…

Longreads Turns Seven Years Old: Unfinished Business

Just a few of the many current Longreads contributors, to whom we are thankful.

Seven years ago this month I started Longreads. To say the word “longread” has taken hold beyond my wildest expectations would be an understatement. It was a Twitter hashtag experiment — which I started because I wanted story recommendations for my subway commute — that turned into a company, a meme, an original publisher, and, of course, an endless cycle of writers debating whether longform storytelling is good or bad for the internet. (Well, thank god for that.) Read more…

The Freelancers’ Roundtable

Illustration by: Kjell Reigstad

Eva Holland | Longreads |February 2016 | 25 minutes (6,339 words)


There’s been more talk than usual lately about the state of freelance writing. There are increasing numbers of tools for freelancers: among them, the various incarnations of “Yelp for Journalists.” There’s advice floating around; there are Facebook support groups.

With the exception of one 10-month staff interlude, I’ve been freelancing full time now for seven and a half years. I’ve learned a few things along the way, but I also still have a ton of questions, and often feel as if I’ve outgrown some of the advice I see going by in the social media stream.

So I gathered a handful of well-established freelance writers and asked them to participate in a group email conversation about their experiences and advice. Josh Dean is a Brooklyn-based writer for the likes of Outside, GQ, Rolling Stone, and Popular Science. Jason Fagone lives in the Philadelphia area and has recently published stories in the New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Matter, and Grantland. May Jeong is based in Kabul, and has written for publications including the New York Times Magazine, the Guardian, and Al-Jazeera America. (She managed to fit in her contributions to this roundtable while reporting from a remote corner of Afghanistan, so thank you, May.) As for me, I live in Canada’s northern Yukon Territory, and my work has appeared in AFAR, Pacific Standard, Smithsonian, and other places on both sides of the border. Read more…

In Praise of Public Pitching

I’ve always been fascinated by how narrative journalism gets commissioned, reported, and published–but the most perplexing part of the entire system is the continued power imbalance between writers and publishers.

This imbalance persists in spite of the internet “democratizing” publishing. More digital publishers are embracing feature writing, but the process behind the scenes feels stuck in the past–a time-consuming marathon of unanswered emails and rejection. Read more…

Longreads Member Drive Update: 400 New Members in Our First Day, plus Digg Buys the First Group Membership

Yesterday, we asked for your help, and you responded. Thanks to you, we welcomed 400 new Longreads Members.

We’re now at 1,400 members—that’s great progress, but we’re still less than halfway to our goal of 5,000 Longreads Members. We need your help to keep spreading the word.

You can share your support on Twitter here.

We’re also excited to announce that the team at Digg has purchased a group membership for its staff! We’d like to thank them for their support.

If your company would like to buy a Longreads Membership for its employees, simply use our PayPal donation page to purchase them ($30/year for each employee), then email us with the names of your employees:

We’ll keep updating you on our progress, and thank you again for everything.

We’ve also had a few questions come up about our plans, so I thought I’d answer them here:

Why 5,000 Members?

It’s not only the number we need to actively sustain and improve our service, but it’s also a number that, for us, would cover more than 50% of all operating expenses. The rest of our revenue will come from advertising—through sponsorships and tasteful display advertising and affiliate revenue.

Do you pay publishers and writers?

This is another reason why the Longreads Membership is important—it will pay not just us, but we set aside a portion of those member dues to pay writers and publishers for each “Longreads Member Pick” that we publish. These are stories and book chapters that are not otherwise available for free on the web.

The more members we have, the more Member Picks we can afford to bring to you.

Join Longreads now and help us keep going.